The Road to the Top:
Cape Reinga Seal Extension

Formerly the dusty finale on the journey to New Zealand's most northern point, the sacred Cape Reinga, the northernmost section of State Highway 1 (SH1), is now sealed, with United Civil Construction having undertaken a $21.5 million road upgrade project for the New Zealand Transport Agency.

With the seal extension works complete, what was a bumpy, dusty and slow ride over the last 20km section of this highway is now a pleasant drive for the 120,000 tourists who visit Cape Reinga each year. This high profile project attracted attention throughout New Zealand and abroad. It was the recipient of a Roading New Zealand Award, and in 2011, an IPENZ Arthur Mead Environmental Award.

Previously designated SH1F, the northernmost section of New Zealand’s longest highway provides the only road access to the iconic Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua), a site of major cultural significance, high ecological and environmental value, and a nationally important tourist destination.

United Civil undertook substantial earthworks with a view to improving the alignment and geometry of the existing carriageway, along with drainage, pavement, surfacing, environmental protection and various landscaping works. The new all-weather carriageway has a design life of 25 years and has been constructed using aggregates sourced from local quarries.

In addition to the seal extension of the road, United Civil completed the civil works associated with the $6 million upgrade of visitor facilities at Cape Reinga for the Department of Conservation. Works undertaken by our company included the construction of two new car parking areas, the formation of a new access track, the resurfacing of the existing track to the lighthouse, the healing of damaged areas of landform by reshaping and replanting (by others), the construction of water supply and sewerage systems, the removal of existing facilities, civil works associated with the construction of a new toilet block and erosion protection works.

Key features:

  • The logistical challenges associated with the remote location of the site.
  • The extensive use of local labour and the implementation of training programmes by United Civil in support of these employees.
  • The use of pre-mixed lime stabilised basecourse as an alternative pavement material and one that provides significant environmental and engineering benefits.
  • Given that the project is in an area that is home to many rare and endangered plants and animals, the works were subject to constant design modifications in order to minimise the extent of disturbance on the surrounding environs.

The project was completed at the end of April 2010, eight months ahead of schedule.

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